Cloud Application Development Guide

The cloud is changing the way applications are developed. And it is giving organizations the agility they need to be competitive. But what does this mean, exactly?

In this guide, you’ll find answers to that question and all the others you have about cloud computing. You’ll also get all the details on cloud-native. Plus, you’ll learn how you can successfully embrace the cloud and cloud-native development as part of your digital transformation.

Cloud vs. Cloud-Native

Cloud-native is an approach to designing, building, and running applications that take full advantage of what cloud computing infrastructures provide: flexibility, scalability, resilience, and elasticity.

But it’s not the same thing as cloud computing.

What Is Cloud-Native?

Cloud-native is a modern way of building applications using continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) principles, container-based engines, and orchestrators as part of the development and delivery processes.

It’s not so much about where the applications are to be deployed — whether it’s on-premises, public, private, or hybrid cloud — but about how they’re developed.

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So, What Are Cloud-Native Applications Exactly?

Cloud-native applications are designed to run on the cloud. They are loosely coupled, optimized for cloud performance, and favor managed services provided by cloud vendors. They are built under a continuous delivery methodology.

This steady delivery of innovative ideas, experiences, and improvements as software is pointed squarely at gaining competitive advantage through speed and improved customer experience.

Netflix, Uber, and Airbnb are just a few examples of companies “born in the cloud” — cloud service companies that have been specifically engineered to take full advantage of cloud infrastructure and delivery instead of relying on traditional on-premises configurations.

Cloud-Native Architecture

We’ve talked about cloud-native applications, now let’s take a look at what their architectures look like. A cloud-native architecture is typically composed of the following elements:

Containers

Containers are a lightweight, standalone, portable package of software that includes everything that is needed to run an app, including code, runtime, system tools, system library, and settings. It’s a small, efficient piece of software that is developed with a specialized PaaS, such as Docker, and can be quickly and easily duplicated and deployed wherever it’s needed.

Kubernetes

An orchestrator of containers, Kubernetes handles their scheduling, load balancing, and deployment. It starts, stops, and heals containers. It scales apps when they’re needed, removes containers when they’re no longer necessary, or replaces them when they fail.

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Microservices

Microservices are small bits of software based on the idea of chopping up parts of larger, monolithic applications and arranging them as independent services that work together. They are housed in containers and deployed in Kubernetes clusters. Using a microservice architecture, apps can be updated, changed, and redeployed faster because you only have to make changes in a microservice or two, instead of the whole application.

Service Mesh

Service mesh is a visible, dedicated infrastructure layer built into an app for the purpose of managing how parts of the application share data. It becomes an important way to document communications as the app grows and needs optimization.

DevOps

A method and philosophy based on combining and automating the process of moving an application from development (dev) into production (ops), DevOps supports the practice of CI/CD. IT organizations continuously develop, test, and release software in small pieces. Large enterprises with well-versed development and IT staff can deploy software this way multiple (and even hundreds of) times a day.

Businesses are undergoing digital transformation at a rapid pace, seeking to digitalize processes to deliver better, richer, customer, partner, and employee experiences.

To do so in the “olden days,” a traditional IT organization had two options:

  • Buy an off-the-shelf solution, install it, and sign a contract with the vendor to keep the app updated.
  • Build the solution internally, which usually meant hiring a bunch of developers to build something custom, and then “waste” internal resources to maintain it over the years.

No matter which option they chose, the solution would eventually become a legacy system and the organization would have to deal with the subsequent issues.

Cloud-native changed this paradigm by introducing a dynamic environment that allows for faster release cycles following DevOps and CI/CD principles to build software that can be rapidly evolved and scaled across cloud environments.

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Did you know that by 2023, 72% of companies expect that the majority of their apps will be created using cloud-native development?

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Cloud-Native Architecture Benefits

Now let’s dive deeper into some of the benefits of a cloud-native approach:

1. Faster Development and Better Software Releases

The combination of CI/CD, DevOps, and the ability to reuse building blocks of containers and code and other components such as APIs, rules, and workflows speeds development and supports more frequent releases. Modularity translates into speed and simplicity with tested software delivered to production faster.

Using DevOps practices, IT staff can quickly develop, integrate, and test software — deploying it incrementally, as it’s ready. Using “fail fast, fix fast” methods, issues are spotted and solved early, before getting to the customer, which produces an overall better experience. The CI/CD process updates software seamlessly, with no disruption to the customer, all while bringing customer-driven services quickly to market.

2. Reduce Costs/Efficient Budget Use

The overall workload of managing the cloud environment becomes more automated in cloud-native environments. Elastic computing, which is the term used for scaling up and down as needed, means companies needn’t have always-on infrastructure.

From a build perspective, tested microservices can be embedded into other clusters without new testing cycles, saving resources. Repeatable processes can be managed via IT automation, reducing staff time. In addition, organizations can realize indirect savings through reduced downtime.

3. Ease of Management

Major cloud vendors such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud provide serverless platforms. This means that they, not you, handle network configuration, provisioning, scaling, and management of cloud instances. Developers simply provide the code and event triggers to run it.

4. Reliability/Improved Business Continuity with Resilience

Business continuity is essential in modern digital enterprises. Because services are loosely-coupled, cloud-native architecture improves redundancy and fault tolerance, and automated recovery.

The containers and Kubernetes approach mean failed containers are swept out and new ones are deployed automatically, which greatly reduces downtime. This resilience has the added benefit of lowering costs and conserving resources for other IT priorities and supporting reliability.

5. Choice Through Open-Source Standards

Organizations are using multiple environments — a mix of on-premises, public clouds, private clouds, and hybrid. By developing cloud-native applications, they don’t have to make code changes to run these applications on or across different infrastructures. This portability means companies are not locked into any one vendor.

6. Better Customer Experiences

Cloud-native applications and architecture are independent of the infrastructure. Therefore, the business and IT can create a collaborative culture that dedicates more resources to meeting business requirements and examining how customers experience the software.

Cloud vs. Cloud-Native

So, what’s the difference between cloud and cloud-native, really?

Cloud is like having an application that runs on someone else's computer. You just use the application while that other person takes care of running the application and making it accessible to you, as well as the computer itself.

Cloud-native is like using another organization’s whole computer farm to reinvent how your applications work and run to take advantage of the benefits of that massive computer farm.

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“Cloud-native computing is more than an approach to implementing software infrastructure at scale. In reality, it is a paradigm shift that changes everything we know about how to code, engineer, integrate, architect, run, and secure modern applications.”

Jason Bloomberg Leading IT industry analyst and Intellyx President Read full report 

That said, not all applications that use the cloud are cloud-native. They can also be cloud-based or cloud-enabled. Here’s the difference.

Cloud-Native Apps Cloud-Based Apps Cloud-Enabled Apps
  • Designed to take advantage of a cloud hosting architecture.
  • Typically involve a microservices architecture.
  • Often deployed via containers or using serverless functions.
  • They can also be deployed in a Kubernetes cluster hosted in an on-premises infrastructure.
  • Any app that operates and runs on the cloud.
  • Includes SaaS products.
  • Also includes apps whose server is hosted in the cloud, but that need to be installed in the client-side software.
  • Apps originally created to run on-prem but that were migrated to the cloud.
  • Given they weren’t originally designed to run in containers, they don’t scale as well as cloud-native applications.

Are You Considering Building Cloud-Native Applications?

Visit our page Cloud Application Development and Low-Code to learn how the combined speed of low-code plus the power and capability of a state-of-the-art cloud platform can help you.